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BioRegion Newsmakers: Jan 19, 2009


California Watchdog Agency Warns Burnham CEO of Conflict in 2007 Appeal to CIRM Staff

The California Fair Political Practices Commission has issued a letter warning the CEO of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, John Reed, that he violated the state's Political Reform Act in 2007 when he sought to appeal a denial of a $638,000 research grant sought by his institution from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine given his position as a director of the agency's governing board.

According to the FPPC — which enforces the state's political campaign, lobbying, and conflict of interest laws — Reed "intended to influence a decision that had the potential to affect his economic interests," and that could not be appealed based on CIRM's policies. Reed's action "raises ethical concerns," the FPPC concluded in its Jan. 7 letter, first made public by Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit group that monitors CIRM.

"Reed is advised that failure to comply with the provisions of the [political reform] Act can result in an enforcement action against him, including monetary penalties of up to $5,000 for each violation," FPPC wrote.

Reed's action, first reported in November 2007 by the California Stem Cell Report, sparked a complaint to FPPC by Consumer Watchdog's stem cell project director John Simpson, as well as an audit by state Controller John Chiang. Chiang's audit largely gave CIRM a clean bill of health, concluding that the agency followed all but one of its own policies intended to minimize conflicts of board members between their duties as overseers of the agency, and their duties to their employer institutions. [BRN, May 19, 2008; Dec. 17, 2007].

During the FPPC investigation, Reed recused himself from serving on the ICOC board, and named an alternate to serve in his place.

Greater Philadelphia Chamber President Departs for PRWT Government Back-Office/Outsourcing Post

Former Pennsylvania governor Mark Schweiker will leave his post as president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, where he has served for the last six years, to join PRWT Services as head of the company's business process outsourcing unit, which provides back-office and outsourcing services to state and local government agencies nationwide.

The move takes effect June 30. Schweiker will be based from the Center City (1835 Market St.) offices of PRWT, to which Merck has outsourced operations of a pharmaceutical management plant, and the largest minority-owned firm in Greater Philadelphia.

Schweiker co-created and ran the chamber's economic development arm Select Greater Philadelphia. The group promotes an 11-county region including South Jersey and Northern Delaware, in part through an initial four-year, $16 million campaign. Select is now raising another round of funding.

A national search for Schweiker's replacement will be launched immediately and likely be concluded before he begins his new job, David Cohen, chairman of the chamber's board and executive vice president at Comcast, told the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Harold Epps, PWRT's president and CEO, told the newspaper his company plans to expand its presence in the life science industry to include fine chemical distribution services.

Schweiker, a former Bucks County commissioner from 1988 to 1994, took the chamber job in 2003, after being succeeded as governor by current Gov. Edward Rendell. Schweiker succeeded Tom Ridge, who left office in 2002 when Ridge was appointed the nation's first director of homeland security. At the chamber Schweiker assisted more than 40 companies in establishing new operations in this region; led the group's advocacy of a $700 million expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center; and expanded the chamber's paid internship program from 440 students in 2006 to more than 1,000 in 2007 and 1,500 last year.

Schweiker received a BSci degree from Bloomsburg University, and a master's degree in administration from Rider University.

Intra-Cellular Therapies CEO Named NYBA Chairman; Association Names Two to Board

Sharon Mates, the chairman and CEO of Intra-Cellular Therapies has been elected chairman of the board of the New York Biotechnology Association for 2009-2010. The association also announced two appointments to its board — Robert Easton, chairman of Scisive Consulting; and Barbara Gebhardt, president of Opus Scientific, a provider of contract staffing, contract to hire and direct hire staffing to the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device, and other industries.

Since 1998, Mates has been involved in the formation of several biotech and healthcare companies. Intra-Cellular Therapies was formed in 2002 by Mates along with Paul Greengard and Allen Feinberg of Rockefeller University to develop new therapeutics for CNS diseases based on proprietary technologies developed in Greengard's laboratory.

From 1989 to 1998, Mates was the president of North American Vaccine and its predecessor companies. She is a member of the Board of Visitors of the Biotechnology Institute of the University of Maryland, and a member of the Advisory Council of the Center for Society and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. Mates received her PhD from the University of Washington, and served as a postdoctoral fellow and fellow at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Easton has built and led two top firms, including the Wilkerson Group in 1985, and has led market development and strategic advisory assignments for clients in the pharmaceutical and diagnostic industries. A former manager of a medical diagnostics business for Union Carbide, Easton also serves as Chairman of Gilda's Club of New York City, which assists people with cancer. Easton holds two degrees in chemical engineering from Rice University, and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Gebhardt created Opus Scientific in 2006, two years after she founded Opus Staffing, a firm that specializes in administrative and staff functions. Before Opus, Gebhardt was executive vice president / chief operating officer of Career Blazers, for which she established its first franchise in 1987, established the Career Blazers Learning Center two years later, and began overseeing national operations in 1996. Gebhardt is currently sponsorship co-chair for the American Heart Association's Go Red Movement.

NYBA also announced several revisions to its executive committee:

• Former NYBA Chairman Robert Van Nostrand has been named immediate past chairman;
Vijay Aggarwal, CEO of Aureon Laboratories and formerly NYBA secretary, has been elected vice chairman; and
Joel Papernik, a partner at the law firm Mintz Levin, has been elected secretary.

The Scan

Study Reveals New Details About Genetics of Major Cause of Female Infertility

Researchers in Nature Medicine conducted a whole-exome sequencing study of mote than a thousand patients with premature ovarian insufficiency.

Circulating Tumor DNA Shows Potential as Biomarker in Rare Childhood Cancer

A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found that circulating tumor DNA levels in rhabdomyosarcoma may serve as a biomarker for prognosis.

Study Recommends Cancer Screening for Dogs Beginning Age Seven, Depending on Breed

PetDx researchers report in PLOS One that annual cancer screening for dogs should begin by age seven.

White-Tailed Deer Harbor SARS-CoV-2 Variants No Longer Infecting Humans, Study Finds

A new study in PNAS has found that white-tailed deer could act as a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 variants no longer found among humans.